Two Pints of Jaipur and a 346, Please…: The Top Beer Not So Perfect Ten

Ten pubs near to bus stations and bus stops

A pint before the last bus: what is there not to like? All the better if our desired public house is a short stagger from our bus stop or favoured bus stand.

The history of public houses dovetails with the development of modern day bus operations. Stagecoaches used to call at coaching inns and roadside pubs. On a long journey, for example Manchester to London each coaching inn would constitute a stage where passengers stayed overnight prior to embarking on their next leg. In later years, some of the coaching inns would remain stops on modern-day bus routes. For example, the Old General on the corner of Crescent Road and Astley Street with the 346.

Today’s journey from Manchester to London can be done in a little over two hours by rail instead of a few days. Some of the coaching inns in their 21st century guise have either remained vibrant pubs, become off-licences, or have gone completely.

With a fair number of pubs having free WiFi, checking the bus times is easier than ever. In seconds we could check the operator’s website or mobile app. We could choose alternative routes or – if missing or missed – ring for a taxi. Sometimes, beer quality may be responsible for the latter – true of this fellow’s visits to Stalybridge Labour Club.

Therefore, this month’s Not So Perfect Ten is a Top Beer Not So Perfect Ten. Our round-up covers ten highly desirable pubs close to bus stations and bus stops. Four of which are in the pre-1974 West Riding of Yorkshire boundary. Each public house is chosen on atmosphere as well as beer quality. Our Top Ten is as follows:

  1. Hare and Hounds, Shudehill, Manchester;
  2. The Bulls Head, Fairfield Street/London Road, Manchester;
  3. The Bike and Hound, Hamnett Street, Hyde;
  4. Stalybridge Labour Club, Acres Lane, Stalybridge;
  5. The Fleece Inn, Stamford Road, Top Mossley;
  6. The Ashton Arms, Clegg Street, Oldham;
  7. The King William IV, Chew Valley Road, Greenfield;
  8. Hare and Hounds, High Street, Uppermill;
  9. The New Inn, Manchester Road, Marsden;
  10. The Sportsman, St. John’s Road, Huddersfield.

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1. Hare and Hounds (Manchester):

Thanks to Dukinfield being as good as cut off from the UK’s fastest growing city, I miss calling in this Hare and Hounds. Though the real ale choice is limited (only beer Joseph Holt’s Bitter), it is always well kept. Besides the beer, it is the pub’s lively and convivial atmosphere that wins it for me. The 1930s decor is another scene stealer, with the taproom in the centre and two partitioned rooms. On some occasions, live music comes courtesy of an electric organ in the front lounge or karaoke in the rear lounge nearest to the gents’ toilets.

  • Nearest Bus Station: Shudehill Interchange;
  • Distance from pub: short stagger across the road;
  • Great for: a pint between North Manchester and Middleton bound services. Also good for Bury-bound trams and buses.

2. The Bulls Head:

It was a toss-up between this Bulls Head or the one in Delph. Instead, it was the former Burtonwood house owing to its attractive position for a pint between three modes of inland transport. The pub is always lively with the bulk of its real ales from Marstons’ stable (Pedigree, Ringwood’s 49er, Wychwood’s Hobgoblin for example).

  • Nearest Bus Stops: London Road (173, 192, 203-7) and Fairfield Street (219, 220, 221);
  • Distance from pub: not-so-short stagger across Fairfield Street and London Road via pelican crossings;
  • Great for: Manchester Piccadilly railway station and Metrolink services; also handy for gigs at the Apollo, the 192 service and any bus bound for Hyde or Stockport.

3. The Bike and Hound:

If it is gigs you’re after, and you like your music heavier, look no further than the Bike and Hound. With sticky carpet and abundance of motorcycle paraphernalia, it is quite an institution in Hydonian circles. Live music comes courtesy from local groups on Friday nights. Topless barpeople feature on Thursday nights. In recent times, they have joined the real ale fold selling Robinson’s world famous Trooper (4.7%), Bruce Dickinson’s Iron Maiden ale.

  • Nearest Bus Station: Hyde bus station;
  • Distance from pub: 2 minutes walk (to A stand for the 346 and 389 buses) or 4 minutes walk (E and F stands for 330 buses to Ashton-under-Lyne and Stockport);
  • Great for: heavy metal, the 346 and 389 buses, and the taxi rank nearby.

4. Stalybridge Labour Club:

The excellent Stalybridge Labour Club has nationwide recognition for its real ales. Most of the ales featured are from the Lancashire area, though beers from further afield also feature. Regular bottled beers include the Belgian influenced ales by Tickety Brew – Stalybridge’s microbrewery. Discounts on cask conditioned ales are available for club members and CAMRA members. Besides real ale, it has occasional live entertainment and has held the Stalybridge Brass Band Contest on Whit Fridays since 1995.

  • Nearest Bus Stop: Acres Lane (236, 237, 343, 344, 348, 387);
  • Distance from pub: a short stagger across the car park for Ashton and Hyde bound buses, and a slightly longer stagger across Acres Lane for Glossop, Carrbrook and Oldham bound buses;
  • Great for: heavy metal, the 346 and 389 buses, and the taxi rank nearby.

5. The Fleece Inn:

In the space of eighteen months, The Fleece Inn has become a ‘must-visit’ place for real ales in Top Mossley. Prior to then, it was a nondescript pub selling nondescript lagers offering nothing different to the nearby Stamford Arms. Today it has a wealth of real ales, predominantly by Brightside and Irwell Works breweries, bottled foreign beers and real ciders. The taproom is the best part of the pub, small enough for conversation with bar staff as well as neighbouring customers. It is also a dog friendly public house, so long as owners sit with them in the taproom.

  • Nearest Bus Stop: Market Place (343, 344, 350, 353);
  • Distance from pub: a short stagger across the Stamford Road; walking between any of the three stands is longer than the jaunt from the pub to the first of the stops on Market Place itself.
  • Great for: real ale and cider, and bottled beers. Also five minutes walk from Seel Park, home of Mossley A.F.C.

6. The Ashton Arms:

For almost two decades, The Ashton Arms on Clegg Street, Oldham, has never failed to impress with its weird and wonderful range of cask conditioned ales. Other great joys include a comprehensive number of foreign bottled beers. It is often a well patronised though calm pub. Televised sport is also shown and food is available at lunchtimes. In the next two to three years, expect The Ashton Arms to be busier after Oldham’s new cinema opens.

  • Nearest Bus Stops: High Street (Clegg Street stops closed at present);
  • Distance from pub: 2 minute stagger uphill. Oldham Central Metrolink station may be a better option (it is downhill by the way).
  • Great for: real ales, the future ODEON cinema in the former town hall, Gallery Oldham and Town Square Shopping Centre.

7. The King William IV:

If you’re familiar with the Greenfield Whit Friday Brass Band Contest, this pub is always packed. So much so they sell some beers on the forecourt with plastic glasses during ‘The Greatest Free Show on Earth’. Outside Whit Friday, it is a pleasant pub with Tetley Bitter its regular ale (cask) and any one of the cask ales from Millstone and Greenfield breweries among its usual trio. Also shows televised sports, serves food and has a lively social scene with pool and quiz leagues.

  • Nearest Bus Stops: Chew Valley Road (nearest to Simply Drinks off-licence for Ashton and Mossley bound buses; next to Premier Convenience Store for Manchester, Uppermill and Oldham bound buses). Bus routes: X80, 180, 350 and 354;
  • Distance from pub: brief stagger to either stop, level terrain.
  • Great for: real ales, quiet Sunday night pints and its quiz nights. Also a good starting or finishing point for walkers.

8. Hare and Hounds (Uppermill):

Of the four pubs along High Street, the Hare and Hounds is among the busiest, especially on Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons during the football season. Even so, the regular cask ale (J.W. Lees’ Bitter) is always served to perfection. There is also a wide variety of spirits including single malt whiskies. (Please note that the Hare and Hounds in Uppermill is an over 25s public house).

  • Nearest Bus Stops: High Street (next to pub for Ashton, Oldham (184), Manchester and Mossley bound buses; next to NatWest Bank for Huddersfield, Dobcross, Delph, Denshaw and Oldham bound buses). Bus routes: 184, 350, 353 and 354;
  • Distance from pub: tripping up distance, or a short few strides across High Street (traffic permitting).
  • Great for: lively Saturday night beers, televised sport, pool and jukebox.

9. The New Inn

For our ninth pub, we take a trip across the Pennines to the commodious New Inn. In the past it was popular with football fans. Now refurbished, it has gone upmarket, focusing on good food and real ales. Instead of pay-TV channels, whirlpool baths is now a major selling point. Hotel accommodation is also available, making this house a worthy place for an overnight stay.

  • Nearest Bus Stop: Manchester Road (next to pub for Huddersfield bound buses; opposite pub for Uppermill, Oldham and Manchester bound 184 service). Bus routes: 183 – 186 and 936;
  • Distance from pub: a short walk across Manchester Road (184), or a short walk to the bus stop a few yards after crossing High Street (all Huddersfield bound buses).
  • Great for: restaurant quality food, overnight stays and starting a crawl around the Colne Valley pubs (so long as you don’t cop for a R.A.T.S in the summer months (S.V. created acronym for ‘Rail Ale Trail Saturday)).

10. The Sportsman

Our tenth and final pub has a Rail Ale Trail connection: it is owned by the same people as the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury and the Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar. As you would expect from Samantha Smith and Co., there is a wealth of cask conditioned ales, bottled beers and cask ciders. In addition to guest ales and ciders, their own beers and ciders feature (including their Hopscotch session ale). Food is served daily with tapas nights and a Homemade Pie of the Weeks.

As for the pub itself, 1930s Art Deco style: down to the windows, inherited from Hammonds Brewery’s refurbishment. If you’re between trains or buses, well worth a visit. But be warned: these seconds and minutes soon turn to hours, before you can say ‘I’ve missed the last 363 to Brighouse’.

  • Nearest Bus Stop: John William Street: all services to Leeds, Bradford, Brighouse and Halifax (includes X6, 363, 547, 549 routes);
  • Distance from pub: two to three minutes walk back towards the railway station and town centre. First stop with shelter after the railway bridge.
  • Great for: Art Deco ambience as well as food, real ales, ciders and bottled beers.

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Oh, and if you were to visit most of the pubs by bus in a single day, the services are as follows:

  • Walk or take a tram from Shudehill Interchange to Piccadilly between the Hare and Hounds and The Bulls Head;
  • 201/204/206 buses to Hyde bus station (the 201 is the most direct service of the three);
  • 343 bus to Stalybridge Labour Club (alight outside TESCO side entrance steps and cross road);
  • Then another 343 bus to Top Mossley for The Fleece Inn;
  • For The Ashton Arms, another 343 to Oldham town centre;
  • Then, X80/180 to Greenfield for the King William IV;
  • 350/354 buses from Greenfield to Uppermill for the Hare and Hounds (N.B., 354 is only every two hours);
  • 184 service to Marsden for The New Inn;
  • Then the 183 – 186 and 936 buses to Huddersfield bus station. The Sportsman is about 5 to 10 minutes walk. Follow signs for the railway station then turn right at The George Hotel and walk straight on, under the railway bridge till you see another road and The Sportsman on the left hand side.

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‘Right, who’s paying for this round?’ (Yes readers, it’s your turn to comment)

Feel free to elaborate on the ten pubs featured here. Perhaps you could add some more recommendations to the list. Some of which could be added to a follow-up feature. Is the new New Inn to your liking? Is The Old Turks Head near the Hare and Hounds worth a mention? Feel free to comment as always.

Oh, and if you’re getting a round in, I’ll have a nice pint of that Trafalgar ale from Cottage Brewing Company which I enjoyed in Stalybridge Labour Club recently. And a nice 10 Year Laphroaig chaser would do nicely too!

S.V., 09 October 2014.

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